Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary Composer Biographies

Niccolò Paganini

Born: October 27, 1782 in Genoa, Italy
Died: May 27, 1840 in Nice, France
Nationality: Italian
Era: Classical
Main genre: Orchestral Music
Main works:
Orchestral Music:
The bravura variations Le streghe (1813)
24 Caprices op.1
Violin concertos
Centone di Sonate Vol. 1 Sonatas Nos. 1 - 6
Centone di Sonate Vol. 2
Centone di Sonate Vol. 3
Six Sonatas, Op. 2
Duetto amoroso
Cantabile and Valse
Variazioni di bravura
Six Sonatas, Op. 3
Sonata Concertata
Variations on "Barucabà", Op. 14
Cantabile
Brief biography:

Paganini was the most technically perfect famous violin virtuoso and drew attention to the significance of virtuosity as an element in art. He studied the violin with his father, Antonio Cervetto and Giacomo Costa and studied composition with Ghiretti and Paer in Parma. From 1810 to 1828, Paganini developed a career as a 'free artist' throughout Italy, mesmerizing audiences and critics with his showmanship.

Notable compositions were the bravura variations Le streghe (1813), the 24 Caprices op.1, and the second and third violin concertos. These works surpassed in brilliance any that had been written before. After conquering Vienna in 1828, he was equally successful in Germany (Goethe, Heine and Schumann admired him), Paris and London (1831-4). His hectic international career finally shattered his health in 1834, when he returned to Parma. Apart from his unparalleled technical wizardry on the violin, including the use of left-hand pizzicato, double-stop harmonics, 'ricochet' bowing and a generally daredevil approach to performance - all of which influenced successive violinists (Ernst, Bériot, Vieuxtemps) - Paganini is most important for his artistic impact on Liszt, Chopin, Schumann and Berlioz, who took up his technical challenge in the search for greater expression in their own works. It is well known that Paganini rarely practiced after his 30th birthday. Those who were closely associated with him used to marvel at his brilliant technique and watched him closely to discover how he retained it. Antonia Bianchi, a singer who toured with Niccolo in 1825, bore him a son, Cyrus Alexander on July 23, 1825. Known as a gambler, he unsuccessfully attempted to open a gambling casino in Paris in 1838. Paganini died in Nice, France on May 27, 1840.

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